Food stamp case information is confidential under Federal and State law. Case information may be released only under the following circumstances:
Disclosure restrictions for food stamp case record information that was not obtained through IRS electronically (BEERS and NWRK).
Use or disclosure of information from food stamp case records is restricted to:
Persons directly connected with the administration or enforcement of the provisions of the Food Stamp Act or regulations, other Federal assistance programs, or federally assisted State programs which provide assistance on a means tested basis to low income individuals; and
Persons directly connected with the administration or enforcement of the programs which are required to participate in the State Income and Eligibility Verification System (IEVS), to the extent the food stamp information is useful in establishing or verifying eligibility or benefit amounts under those programs; and
Employees of the Comptroller General's Office of the United States for audit examination authorized by any other provision of law; and
Local, State, or Federal law enforcement officials, upon their written request, for the purpose of investigating an alleged violation of the Food Stamp Act or regulation. The written request shall include the identity of the individual requesting the information and his authority to do so, violation being investigated, and the identity of the person on whom the information is being requested.
Local, State, or Federal law enforcement officials, upon their written request, if the officer furnishes the name and notifies the agency the individual is fleeing to avoid prosecution, custody, or confinement or an attempt to commit a crime that would be classified as a felony or is violating a condition of parole or probation. Information shall also be provided regarding a household member upon the written request of a law enforcement officer when such member has information necessary for the apprehension or investigation of another member who is fleeing to avoid prosecution or custody for a felony, or has violated a condition of probation or parole. DSS must provide the food stamp recipient’s address, social security number, and photograph (if one is available).
The food stamp applicant/recipient may review all information in the case folder which entered into the eligibility determination. DSS may withhold privileged information, such as names of individuals who have disclosed information about the household without the household's knowledge; or the nature or status of pending criminal prosecution. Further, DSS must make available, without charge, the specific materials necessary for a household or its representative to determine whether a fair hearing should be requested or to prepare for a hearing.
Names and addresses of participating households may be available (by State Office only) to persons and agencies directly connected with nutrition education.
A food stamp recipient's or applicant's most recent address and place of employment may be disclosed to the Parent Locator Service, established according to the Child Support Enforcement Program, by State Office or local field offices.
The CW may release case folder information in other than the above situations only on written authorization of the head of household or certified spouse. The recipient's release must include:
The release must be filed in the case record for further reference.
When case file information is subpoenaed, a written response should be submitted to the court indicating “The information you are asking for is considered confidential under 7 CFR 271.1(c) and South Dakota Codified Laws (SDCL) 28-1-29 and 28-1-32. Based on this I am not at liberty to provide information from the case record unless so further ordered by the court.” The judge will then determine if the case file information is to be submitted. If so ordered, the case file can be given to court.
employee is subpoenaed, he/she must notify the supervisor and also appear
in court for the date and time of court hearing. Upon being called to
the witness stand the employee should give identifying information, i.e.
their name, place of employment, years of service, etc. When asked about
information regarding the client or case file, the worker should say “The
information you asking for is considered confidential under the Code of
Federal Regulations at 7 CFR 271.1(c) and South Dakota Codified Laws (SDCL)
28-1-29 and 28-1-32. Based on this I am not at liberty to answer your
questions unless so further ordered by this court.” The judge will then
determine if the testimony is to be submitted. If so ordered, the staff
member may answer all questions.
Any non court-ordered subpoena or otherwise questionable subpoena should be referred to state office.
Persons who request information about current or past food stamp recipients but do not meet the above criteria should submit a written request to State Office. The inquiry should contain enough detailed information about the household (case number, head of household, most recent address, social security number, name of spouse, birthdate) to enable DSS to identify the household. If persons requesting information feel that the information is required in connection with the administration and enforcement of the Food Stamp Program, they should indicate this in the request. If there is any question about confidentiality, State Office will refer the inquiry to legal services.
Telephone inquiries will be answered by State Office if the information is requested immediately.
Disclosure restrictions for food stamp case record information that was obtained from IRS electronic data - BEERS and NWRK screens on the INFC system.
IRS tax information is any information received via NWRK and BEER interfaces. Any information received from the interface screen is considered IRS information - this includes taxpayer’s identity, nature, source, or amount of his income, or any other information obtained from the NWRK or BEER interface screen (for example, the bank’s name and address and interest income amount).
IRS tax information is restricted to agencies who administer IEVS. IRS information is to be used solely for, and to the extent necessary, in determining eligibility for, or the correct amount of benefits under Food Stamps, TANF, or Medicaid. IRS information may not be disclosed to, exchanged with, or utilized by any other federal, state, or local agency, nor any agent.
NWRK/BEER interface screens should never be printed. As stated above, any information on the screens is IRS information and very restricted.
Once the information has been reviewed on the screen, and a discrepancy is noted, a contact should be made with the household informing them that we have received information they may have unreported savings or stocks (or whatever), and request they submit the information.
If the household provides the information (either from their records or a third party they contacted), it no longer is considered tax information. The household must provide the information on a separate document, not one we provided them to lose the “protected tax information status”.
If the household denies, or states they do not have the resource/income, request they provide a copy of their tax return for that year.
x.) If the NWRK/BEER information is on the tax return provided by the household, we may request verification from the source because the information was provided by the household and is considered household information, and regular verification procedures may be followed.
xx.) If the NWRK/BEER information is not on the tax return provided by the household or the household fails to provide a copy of their tax return, and the household continues to deny the existence of the income/resource, follow instructions in d.).
If the information cannot be obtained from the household, any printed material obtained as or created as a result of, the information received from NWRK/BEER must be kept in the Supervisor’s locked drawer in a file folder clearly labeled “Federal Tax Data”. Do not list any amounts that were on the NWRK/BEER screen on the verification request.
x.) Tax data would include verification letters (bank, employer, etc.) - copy of the original request or returned information.
xx.) Once the information has been returned, remove and shred the portion that was taken from the NWRK/BEER screen - name, address of the bank and tax payer identity, etc. The remainder of the verification may be filed in the case file, if needed.
xxx.) Supervisors will maintain a log to identify the date the information was put in the file, name & case number of individual, what the information was, and when and how the information was destroyed. This log will be reviewed during the annual safeguard inspection.
Unauthorized disclosure of IRS information may result in criminal or civil fines or imprisonment as identified below:
Internal Revenue Code 7213 - Unauthorized Disclosure of Tax Information:
Pertaining to NWRK/BEER information: It shall be unlawful for any person to willingly disclose to any person, except as authorized, any return or return information acquired through NWRK/BEER interfaces. Violations shall be a felony punishable by a fine in any amount not exceeding $5,000 or imprisonment of not more than 5 years, or both, together with the cost of prosecution.
Internal Revenue Code 7213A - Unauthorized inspection of returns or return information:
Pertaining to NWRK/BEER information: Inspection of NWRK/BEER information for any reason other than determining eligibility or correct amount of benefits for Food Stamps, TANF, or Medicaid will be punishable upon conviction by a fine in any amount not exceeding $1000, or imprisonment of not more than 1 year, or both, together with the costs of prosecution.
Internal Review Code 7431 - Civil Damages for Unauthorized Disclosure of returns or return information:
Pertaining to NWRK/BEER information: Inspection or disclosure of tax information that is in violation of IRS disclosure restrictions may result in the tax payer filing civil action unless the inspection or disclosure resulted from good faith but erroneous interpretation of IRS disclosure procedures or the information was requested by the taxpayer.
x.) If civil action is upheld, a liability of the greater of $1000 for each action or the sum of actual damages and/or punitive damages, plus the cost of action may be imposed.
Tax information is strictly restricted as per the above procedures. If there is any question about disclosure, State Office will refer the inquiry to legal services. Since tax information will never be a part of the case file, any subpoenaed information will be handled under the procedures listed under part I) of this section.
South Dakota Food Stamp Certification Manual • Revised October 2008